Monday, 19 August 2013

Australian Car Manufacturing: Take it seriously, or get out.

Every few years the government throws more money at car manufacturers to keep them local. There's no strategy around Australia being a long term car manufacturer, just the hope that if you throw a few dollars at it now, the issues the industry face can be thrown over the fence for the next government to handle.

Australians are finally starting to realise that if we don't support locally made products, even though they're more expensive, the rest of the world won't provide enough demand for the majority of Australian products to survive.

While car manufacturers are no different in needing Australian support to survive, they lack anywhere near the support of consumers that other products have. In a recent survey, 87% of people said they were more likely to purchase Australian made food, where only 55% said they were more likely to buy Australian made cars. Given that about 10% of new car sales last year were actually for locally produced cars, even that is an overstatement.

So if no Australians are buying Australian cars, is there at least an export market for them? No, the number of cars we've exported has halved since the GFC. Our cars are simply too expensive, with our exchange rate still at historical highs why would someone elsewhere buy an Australian car over a higher quality German one or cheaper Asian one?

Both Liberal and Labor governments have had a chance to sort out the industry issues so this statement does not come with any political bias - the government should have, and could have, done a lot more for the industry. The actions made by Australians show they don't care about the industry, so the ball is in the governments court to save the industry. Not by throwing money at General Motors or Toyota, but by implementing policies specifically designed to increase demand for locally made cars.

I'm talking about subsidies for buying Australian made cars - how about removing stamp duty and taxes on locally made cars, how about instead of handing out tax cuts to businesses, allocate that money to tax breaks for businesses that purchase Australian made cars. How about the government invests in R&D, in giving Australian made cars a competitive advantage against foreign competitors. How about we force Australians to take one for the team, and pay for this with increased taxes on cars not made in Australia?

I'm not saying I even agree with what I propose - but if we're not willing to take the problem seriously, how about we stop throwing money at foreign companies to keep them here and focus on reskilling the workers who have faced non-existent job security for years?

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